Michael Avenatti Arrested, Facing Federal Charges in New York and L.A.

Michael Avenatti - Getty - H 2018
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Michael Avenatti is being charged with federal crimes on both coasts: he's being charged with four counts of extortion in New York and facing federal wire fraud and bank fraud charges in California. 

Avenatti was arrested Monday in Manhattan, Nicholas Biase, with the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, told The Hollywood Reporter. 

Before he was taken into custody, Avenatti tweeted, "Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball."

This purported scandal is the reason for his arrest. According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Avenatti told Nike he would only refrain from holding the press conference if it paid his client $1.5 million, and agreed to retain him and an unnamed co-conspirator to conduct an internal investigation for $15-$20 million. He repeatedly warned the company that he wasn't "fucking around," according to the complaint. Nike contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office, who investigated in conjunction with the FBI. (Read the complaint below.) The co-conspirator is described as "an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California, and similarly known for representation of celebrity and public figure clients."

In New York, Avenatti is being charged with conspiracy to transmit interstate communications with the intent to extort, conspiracy to commit extortion, transmission of interstate communication with intent to extort and extortion.

In Los Angeles, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Nicola T. Hanna announced Avenatti is facing up to 50 years in prison for bank and wire fraud. Prosecutors allege the lawyer embezzled a client's money to pay his own expenses and debts and defrauded a Mississippi bank by submitting fake tax returns to secure $4.1 million in loans for his law firm and coffee company in 2014.

“Professionals, including attorneys, who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to mislead others and defraud both their clients and federally insured financial institutions, run the very high risk of prosecution,” said IRS special agent in charge Ryan Korner in a Monday statement. “The criminal complaint unsealed today shows a pattern of selfish behavior that paints Mr. Avenatti as a lawyer who only represents his own self-interests.”

Avenatti gained notoriety representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald Trump in connection with an NDA regarding their alleged affair. He also toyed with the idea of running for the White House. Daniels issued a statement via Twitter.

In February, the office of the Los Angeles City Attorney declined to file charges against Avenatti for an alleged assault that took place last November. He vehemently denied the accusations and alluded to being set up by Jacob Wohl, the die-hard Trump supporter who made headlines after his scheme to frame Robert Mueller imploded.